USB keys will sometimes display less memory than is actually available, even after the drive has been completely wiped. When this happens, it's helpful to reformat your USB flash drive to restore your device its full capacity. Formatting your USB will open up the drive's storage space and even increase its efficiency.
USB keys can be formatted in several different ways. This article will walk you through how to format your USB key on a Mac, Windows, or Linux PC.
Formatting a USB Key
Before beginning, it's important to choose which kind of file system you'd like to use. Depending on the needs of the user, a USB key can be formatted with the FAT file system, (including FAT16 or FAT32), or NTFS system.
system is often used on small USB keys, with a storage maximum of 2GB. This file system is accessible via MS-DOS and all versions of Windows.
system is best used for multimedia keys with a storage maximum of 4GB. This file system is accessible through all versions of Windows from Windows 95 OSR2.
is used to transport files that are larger than 4GB. This
system has an unlimited file size maximum (within normal use) and is accessible through all versions of Windows from Windows NT4.
Format USB Key in Windows
The following procedure will explain how to format a USB key using the FAT
system on Windows
Open your Control Panel and select Administrative Tools
Next, click on Computer Management
> Disk Management
, and right-click on the drive letter that corresponds to your USB drive. Select Format
If your key has a capacity of more than 2GB
, select FAT32
; if your storage capacity is less than 2GB
, select FAT16
. Confirm your selection by clicking OK
Here's how to format your USB key using the NTFS
system on Windows
Insert your USB key into the USB port and wait for it to be recognized as a mass medium. Then go to Start
> My Computer
Your USB key should be visible in the section labeled Devices with Removable Storage
. Right-click on the key, and go to Properties/Hardware
. Then double click on the USB drive icon.
Now head to the Policies
tab and select Optimize for performance
. Click on OK
Now go back to My Computer
. Right-click on your USB drive and then choose Format
. You'll see that selecting both the NTFS
options has now become possible.
Format USB Key in Windows XP
If your Windows XP system continues to kick back error messages, you can use the HP USB Disk Storage Format Tool
to reformat your USB key.
Instructions on how to proceed with the formatting can be found in our tutorial
Format USB Key with Linux
Linux users can format their USB keys into FAT16, FAT32 and NTFS by simply downloading and launching the GParted
program. This software will allow you to create partitions in the FAT16, FAT32, or NTFS format. GParted is compatible with most Linux systems:
Alternatively, you can also can also use a GParted Live CD
to format your USB key.
Format USB Key on Mac OS
users can format their USB keys into the FAT
format in a few simple steps.
Open Disk Utility
and select the icon of the USB key on the left side of the window. Then click on the Partition
tab in the right window.
with 1 partition and then click on Options
> Master Boot Record (MBR)
to confirm the selection. Then, back in the main window, choose the MS-DOS (FAT)
option. Give a title to this volume, and finalize by clicking on Apply
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